Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What a Difference a Year Makes

I've been talking a lot with my friend Sara in Houston lately.  Both because I miss her dearly AND because she is due to have her first baby (Emma) any day now!  I was terrified that while the power was in an out last weekend with the hurricane that she was gonna go into labor and I was gonna miss it.  But Baby Emma is still holding out (even though Mama has been dilating for like 2 1/2 weeks now!).  I think she's waiting until the best day of the year (aka-Novemeber birthday!) to come!  That would be so cool!  At any rate, we were talking about what life looked like just one short year ago.  Here's what we were doing:

Our church was having its annual Fall Festival around this time last year.  Sara and Jared were about a month away from starting their "quest for baby" ;)!  So no Emma yet.  We were in the the throws of our young marrieds Bible study which Jonathan and I and Sara and Jared had spent literally a year trying to cultivate.  It was FINALLY taking off and we had a TON of couples in the class.  After a year of waiting, we were finally seeing the "fruits of our labor".  Jonathan was in the middle of med school applications.  At that point, the Caribbean wasn't even on our radar!

Before we headed to the festival, Jonathan and I had spent a large chunk of our day at the fertility specialist undergoing an IUI.  Not fun.  That marked the last real aggressive treatment we underwent to try and conceive (we attempted one more treatment in February, but because of my previous ectopic pregnancy, we couldn't complete it...).  I can't say that I was sad to be leaving that ordeal in the past.  It had been too much for too long!  I was about to turn 27 and I was in the throws of "raising a new band director" (we had just hired Matt Bell on as my new assistant...he was a first year teacher) and I was managing a band program of over 200 kids.  Jonathan was working at the Pasadena Health Center as an MA and doing amazingly well.  Bernice was healthy, both my parents were in El Paso, and we were still living on Peachford Lane...

So what does October 31st, 2012 look like?  Well...Jonathan and I are living in the Bahamas.  He is nearly done with his first semester of his med school journey, and I am a happy housewife.  I am spending a good chunk of today working through my "Dominica To Do List" since we will be moving there in a very short 8 1/2 weeks!  Sara and Jared are gearing up for Baby Emma to come, and Jonathan and I are getting ready to come back to the states for 6 weeks.  Still no baby on our horizon, but we are no longer feeling "defeated" in that realm.  Mostly because God came through for us tremendously in the medical school realm, so we are confident He won't leave us hanging in the baby realm either.  It just has to be His perfect timing!  I am about to turn 28 in a few days!  Bernice is on the road to recovery and has undergone major surgery and 3 chemotherapy treatments (she's halfway done!).  My mother landed a job in Cleburne, Tx and is there working and prepping for the building to start on their retirement property.  Daddy is working away in El Paso.  And we aren't living in our cute little Peachford house...instead we live in a one bedroom apartment 2 blocks from a gorgeous turquoise ocean.  My what a difference a year makes!

When I think about what this time next year is going to look like, I get sort of stopped in my tracks.  How many things about this year have been so "left field" for us?  How many things about this upcoming year are going to be just as "left field"???  I can't even imagine what those things might be because if you'd told me this time last year that this is what I'd be doing in a year, I wouldn't have believed you!  Next October Sara and Jared will have a nearly ONE-year-old and little Emma will be dressing up for her first Halloween.  Jonathan will be a short one semester away from finishing his stint in Dominica.  He and I will be gearing up to come back to the states (woohoo!).  My parents will be in their retirement home.  Bernice will be done with this whole crazy cancer ordeal (every single aspect of it which is mind boggling to me).  Nicole will be done with school!  She and Patrick will be starting the next leg of their journey (they're next in line for this crazy ride I think!).  Jonathan will be 30!!  And those are just the things I KNOW are going to happen.  Insane.  But I look forward into this next year with great anticipation.  How richly we have been blessed even through the bumpy ride that has been 2012 so far, and how richly we will be blessed as we walk through yet another year.  

What will YOUR 2013 look like??

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

It's Just Us...and a Pan Full of Candles... looks like internet and power will hold at least long enough for me to finish this post!  Even though Sandy was much less dramatic for us here in the Bahamas than it has been for the Eastern Seaboard, we were still without power for nearly 48 hours straight and without running water for even longer.  Things are somewhat back to normal, though Jonathan and I are still dealing with periodic power/cable/internet outages here at our humble abode.  So annoying!  We spent the weekend riding out the storm at the Wellses casa (Sunset Lodge), so when we got back to our apartment we were thrilled to find only evidence that there had been some minor standing water inside.  We live about a block from the canal which apparently was having 8-10' swells in it during the storm!  So we put all our stuff away, had some dinner, and got ready for bed.  Jonathan went into the bathroom to "tinkle" (if you will), and I got in my jammies and into bed.  About that time, the power cut off.  And it was PITCH black in the house.  Couldn't see your hand in front of your face!  So poor Jonathan had to "shoot in the dark" and then feel his way out of the bathroom...

"Living" at Sunset Lodge for the weekend (which, for those of you who don't know, sort of functions like the dorms for the school...they only rent to students and it's within walking distance of campus) took me back to my college days.  Maybe not in a good way.  I remember visiting Walker 7 at OU and it being packed with gross boys, squeally girls (guilty), and way too many stupid ideas.  That's about what Sunset looked like on Friday and Saturday.  I have to give people the benefit of the doubt, though.  Imagine 100 or so MED students who are at the end of their mental rope, put them in one confined space, turn off the power/internet/cable/water for two days, and take away their transportation.  Yeah.  Can you see the picture I'm painting for you??

Picture #1-4 boys (not Matt or Jonathan or Vedant) decide they're bored.  So they go down stairs (mind you, wind gusts are around 40-60 mph at this point) and get a shopping cart.  They push that shopping cart into the courtyard (so everyone in the complex can see their...ummm...folly...).  They bring out a broom and bed sheet and decide they are going to fashion them into a sail and attach that sail to the shopping cart and see if they can "catch a breeze".  They break the broom in half, the bed sheet is completely soaked through, and the poor kid "riding" in the cart isn't going anywhere.  So they choose a skinnier kid and he actually does go somewhere...sort of.  They are so proud of themselves.  At this point the cart is dangerously close to the edge of the pool...and it's at a stand still.  Going nowhere.  Until one of them pushes the whole thing, kid and all, into the pool.  And then all of them (including the 5-7 boys that joined the "party") all get in the pool.  In a hurricane...

Picture #2-Friday night we decide that peanut butter and Nutella sandwiches are just not gonna cut it for lunch AND dinner.  So the boys figure out how to get the gas grill downstairs working and we pile together anything "grillable" that doesn't require opening the freezer (since the power is out) and make a "feast".  Comprised of hot dogs, a few chicken breasts, and boca burger patties.  Split between 6 people.  With a pan full of candles in the middle of the table for light.  Romantic??  Maybe not.  Inventive??  Definitely.  So the next day we grabbed a ride with JC and went to buy a lantern.  Because candles and flashlights just don't cut it after a while.

Picture #3-Saturday early evening.  Water has been out for a while.  And people just have to flush...I mean seriously.  So what does an apartment complex full of resourceful future doctors do??  Avail themselves of the perfectly good pool outside.  So one by one, people starting coming out to the pool to grab buckets of flushin' water.  Problem solved!

So what are the takeaways here??  DO NOT go to Dominica without a lantern, flashlights, batteries, and ingenuity.  You just won't survive a hurricane on a teeny little tropical island otherwise...

Thursday, October 25, 2012

She Has Served Her Sentence...

Here in Freeport, we are getting ready to field hurricane Sandy.  It's only a category 1 hurricane as of now, and it doesn't look like it will strengthen into anything worse before it hits the Bahamas, but nonetheless, we are preparing for a few days of bad weather.  What that means for us is that we'll be heading over to the Wellses for a night or two since their apartment has a generator.  Our power goes out when it only rains a little, so 90 mile an hour winds will most definitely knock it out.  So we're packing up the pup and headed that way.

This evening I was reading Angie's blog over at Gracefully Giddy and the title of her blog was Redeemed.  I just had to read it.  I found myself sort of looking for a word or two tonight.  I have had a rough week this week.  I have felt like I've just come out of a cage fight.  Both my eyes are black, my lips are bleeding, I can't see straight.  I am beat up, beat down, and just plain beat.  I've had to have Jonathan rub my back until I fall asleep at night these past few nights because I cannot turn my mind off.  I wake up in the morning and grapple for my Bible as soon as Jonathan leaves because I'm looking for a word, a little comfort, maybe an explanation.  And I do receive that from Him daily.  But it's always nice to stumble upon His words throughout the day.  So here's an excerpt from Angie's blog:

One word pierced my heart. Redeemed. We all know the word. I wanted to know more.
Redeemed is defined as:
to buy back
to free from captivity by payment of ransom
to release from blame or debt
to free from distresses or harms
to free from the consequences of sin
to change for the better.”
Did you read that? Isn’t that amazing? We are redeemed by the blood of Jesus. He loves us so much that he released us to be free. God uses our imperfections for his glory. We are freed to leave the old and be a new person in Christ. We are redeemed.
The part about that post that spoke to me tonight is the part about being "released from blame or debt".  We all have things we regret in life.  We all have things that, if we were given the chance to go back, we would have handled differently.  All of us have been blamed, accused, charged...guilty.  But thank God we don't have to keep feeling like we aren't worth anything because of the mistakes we've made.  We are told that if we forgive, we'll be forgiven.  Free from blame, free from guilt.  Shame, guilt, worthlessness...those things are not from God.  They are the things that keep us from really feeling the warmth of His love for us.  His unconditional love!
But it must be said, that over the years I've learned a few things about what forgiveness means.  Forgiveness is really between you and God.  I get caught up sometimes in thinking that in order to really forgive someone, you have to resolve all your issues and want to spend a bunch of time with that person and skip through the daisies together.  But that's not the way it works.  Forgiveness frees YOU.  It's really not about the other person.  We are called to "turn the other cheek", but that doesn't mean we need to willingly show up to the next fight does it?  Forgiving someone is not contingent upon their reception of your forgiveness.  Meaning if I say "Hey, I'm sorry.  I shouldn't have treated you that way.  I was hurt by the way that you treated me, so I reacted that way, and that was wrong.  I've forgiven you and I'm asking that you forgive me," and mean it from the heart, yet the other person shoots you the proverbial middle doesn't mean that your forgiveness of them is negated.  It also doesn't mean that you have to continue receiving the blame and the judgement and the accusation until they decide you're forgivable. Honestly, you were freed from those things already because of the blood of Jesus Christ.  And God will deal with their hearts in His's between them and Him.  
But in order for me to brush myself off, tend to my wounds, and keep pressing forward, I have to cut some things lose.  I have to take that proverbial middle finger that I received this week and say, "Ok.  I've spoken my peace, I've prayed about it, and I have to move on."  Because these feelings of worthlessness, guilt, and shame that I've felt this week are NOT things from God.  It hurts His heart for any of His children to feel that way.  I have to believe that I've done what I can, said what I needed to, and that I just can't keep standing here like a weeble wobble getting the crap socked out of me and popping back up for more.  As if at some point in time there will be a "last sucker punch" and it will all be fixed.  Maybe the damage has been done.  Maybe things will be different in the future.  Maybe they won't.  I guess that's not for me to know...
In the meantime, I am receiving His REDEMPTION and accepting His forgiveness tonight.  Because in the end, no matter who you're struggling with, it is only His forgiveness that you need.  And lucky for us, He freely gives it!  I can't keep trying to field this pain and hurt.  I can't keep putting myself in the line of fire.  I can't keep being made to feel like this.  I can't keep pretending that everything will be better.  It's like putting a bandaid on a severed arm, honestly.  What I need is freedom from it, and my prayer tonight is that He would, with the Grace and Mercy that only He possesses, grant me that Peace that surpasses all understanding.  Because this one...I really cannot begin to explain...
"Comfort, oh comfort my people," says your God. "Speak softly and tenderly to Jerusalem, but also make it very clear That she has served her sentence, that her sin is taken care of—forgiven! She's been punished enough and more than enough, and now it's over and done with." --Isaiah 40:1

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

I Was Made For You

All of these lines across my face,
Tell you the story of who I am.
So many stories of where I've been,
And how I got to where I am...

But these stories don't mean anything,
When you've got no one to tell them to,
It's true...I was made for you!

I climbed across the mountain tops,
Swam all across the ocean blue,
I crossed all the lines and I broke all the rules,
But, baby, I broke them all for you!

Because even when I was flat broke,
You made me feel like a million bucks,
It's true...that I was made for you...

You see this smile across my mouth,
It's hiding the words that don't come out.
And all of our friends who think that I'm blessed,
They don't know my head is a mess.

No they don't know who I really am,
And they don't know what I've been through like you do,
And I was made for you!

I am a sucker for music, as you probably well know by now.  Two posts in a row with song lyrics...I guess you know what I've been doing!  Actually, this one is on my running playlist.  The Grey's Anatomy version which is sung by the beautiful and talented Sara Ramirez (check out this fabulous article by her about being a size 12 in a size 0 world).  It seems like the more I listen to this old Brandi Carlisle song, the more I feel like it was written for me and Jonathan.  Especially the line about crossing mountain tops and swimming across the ocean and breaking all the rules.  It's so apropos...

It's true though...I know that when I was being knit together in my mother's womb, that God was creating me as the perfect compliment for Jonathan.  And him for me!  Things are not always rainbows and daisies.  I almost think if you're in a marriage that IS rainbows and daisies, you better be gearing up for the apocalypse!  I'll tell you, though, that when we get "heated" about things (which is rare, but it does happen), it doesn't, at all, diffuse our love for each other.  And there are times that I sit in the living room and watch him hovering over his books and I think " lucky am I?"  There are times when I'll be reading or working on the computer and I'll look up and catching him watching me.  The love between us is out of this world.  Literally.  Unlikely as it may have seemed in the beginning, nobody can dispute that we are perfect for each other...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

One Day You Will Set All Things Right...

For your nearness, Lord, I hunger,
For your nearness, Lord, I wait,
Hold me ever closer, Father,
Such a love I can't escape...

For your nearness I am hoping,
For your nearness, Lord, I long,
I have no need of any other,
I have found where I belong.
Yes I have found where I belong.

So draw me nearer, Lord.
Never let me go. 
Closer to Your heart,
Draw me nearer Lord,
Draw me nearer Lord.

In your nearness there is healing,
What was broken now made whole,
Restoration in its fullness,
Lasting hope for all who come.

In your nearness I take shelter,
Where you are is where I'm Home,
I have need of only one thing.
To be here before your Throne.
To be here before your Throne.

So draw me nearer Lord,
Never let me go.
Closer to Your heart,
Draw me nearer Lord,
Draw me nearer my Lord,

And keep me here,
Keep me here.
There's nowhere else I'd rather be.
So keep me here,
Keep me here,
There's nowhere else I'd rather be.  
There's nowhere else I'd rather be.

This is a Meredith Andrews song called Draw Me Nearer.  It has been on repeat on my phone for the last hour.  When I'm feeling empowered, when I'm feeling beat up, when I'm feeling excited, when I'm feeling anxious, this song centers me.  It reminds me that all the "good stuff" comes from Him, and all the stuff that hurts comes from the world.  Living in the world means we can't escape the hurt.  We can't escape the pain.  Wouldn't that be fabulous though??  If being a Christian meant that all the things in life that make us cry, knock the wind out of us, break our hearts just vanished??  Well, it will, One Fine Day, but for now we can rest assured that He hears us.  He knows our pain.  He feels our tears.  And He is the only one who can make it better.  He is the only one who no matter what you've said or done will STILL be there with you for eternity.  He is also our biggest fan!  He's the obnoxious cheerleader who keeps screaming "Go!  You can do it!", He's the best friend high-fiving you at the finish line.  He relishes in the opportunity to give us little slices of Heaven here on earth, but He also hates to see us cry.  I know if He could He would come right down here to earth and wipe our tears, wrap His arms around us, brush the hair out of our faces, and say "I love you my child.  I'm all you need!  If I could take this pain away and put it onto myself I would.  I did!!  So rejoice in the fact that, even though this hurts, it is nothing compared to a lifetime and an eternity without me.  Let Me be your stronghold!  I can make it better!".  

The worst pain in this world is almost unbearable.  Almost!  But even though today I feel like I literally got the crap beat out of me, I can still find the joy.  I can still laugh through the tears and smile through the rain, because I know that He won't leave me hanging.  The worst that could happen to me is that this pain just consumes me entirely...but then I get to spend eternity in Heaven!  What a precious gift!  So what that means to me is that I should take a cue from Paul.  Because lately I feel like some days I channel him...some days I channel Job.  Today it's Paul.  Because in prison's chains Paul and Silas, through their pain, prayed and sang.  They Blessed Your Name!  I can be chained physically, I can be beat down mentally, I can be a pile of garbage on the floor of life.  But it doesn't change the fact that I AM FREE!  Free indeed!  And my God is an awesome God.  He sees my past and still wants to be a part of my future.  He wants the best of me.  And One Fine Day, He will set all things right...

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Finer Things in Life

I heard someone say once that there was no point in registering (when you get married) for things like china and crystal.  That those things were just a way for people to flaunt how much money they have.  Being that I'm here in Freeport and sorely missing my "finer things", I've been thinking a lot about what those kinds of things mean to me.  Why is it that I love them so much?  It certainly can't be because I enjoy showing people how much money I have!  Clearly that is not the case at this particular point in my life.  So here's my 2 cents...

Why I registered for fine china:
(this is my china pattern by the beautiful...)

I registered for fine china because one of my favorite "heirloom" items in my grandmother's house is her fine china.  She is a "dish freak" and she has totally passed that obsession down to me.  I love going through her china cabinet and hearing where she got certain pieces and why she loves them.  I love the nostalgia, the history behind her fine china.  I wanted to have some of my own so that I can tell my grandkids the stories about where I got it, who bought me place settings (one of which includes my own grandmother!).  It's not about what anybody might deduce about my character from my china, it's about what it will be generations from now to whoever is looking at it and telling my stories!

Why diamonds are a girl's best friend:
(this is me receiving Jonathan's wedding gift which was a diamond journey necklace...)

Well this is a no brainer for me!  Of course sparkle is my favorite color, but the diamonds that I have mean so much more to me than just a great fashion statement.  My first diamonds came from my dad.  For my 18th birthday, he bought me the most beautiful pair of diamond stud earrings.  They are so perfectly me, because they're not just plain studs.  Each earring has 4 round stones in a star pattern which makes them unique...just like me!  I never take them off.  They're actually in my ears right now!  My engagement ring is incredibly beautiful.  In addition to the fact that it came from my wonderful husband, my solitaire round stone came from a ring that was "willed" to me by my great grandmother.  My wedding band is comprised of small diamonds taken from one of my mother's grandmother's rings (another great grandmother of mine) and some from a ring that belonged to Jonathan's late grandmother.  So my left ring finger is encrusted in history!  And through the years as Jonathan adds to that setting, every diamond that goes into it will be another diamond that could possibly be set in my future childrens' wedding settings.  How incredible is that??  No cubic zirconium can survive the test of that kind of time...

I am not a believer that the only reason people "indulge" in the finer things in life is so that they can show people how much money they have.  I really could care less whether anyone notices how "big" my engagement ring is or whether anyone else gushes over my china pattern.  It's not about anybody but me and Jonathan and us blending our two family histories together and starting and continuing our own history together!  Because long after the two of us are gone, there are a few things that will live on past us.  There's a reason why if you call something "heirloom" it automatically is more valuable.  Why?  Because you just can't put a price on nostalgic memoirs.  You can't duplicate them!

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Weekend's Up for Grabs!


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Happy Weekend!
Your ADKOF Team

Thursday, October 18, 2012

I Now Know Why Coaches Hated Me...

I grew up an athlete.  I was always playing sports.  I played basketball, softball, volleyball, and I was a swimmer.  I played competitive sports all the way until my junior year in high school when I decided to get more serious about my instrument.  But I've always considered myself an athlete (especially because I'm built like one...which equals SERIOUS flab when you're no longer working out anymore...).  Even when I wasn't playing competitively anymore, I was still in marching band which really is an athletic event.  So I stayed pretty thin and fit while I was in college because of that.  But literally a MONTH after I graduated college, I started gaining weight.  There were lots of contributing factors there, but probably the most prominent one was my inactivity.  I was too busy to run, to busy to work out, maybe just TOO busy in general.  So by July after Jonathan and I got married, I had gained a little less than 30 pounds.  And I've been working for the last 5 years to shave that shame...I mean those pounds off...

Last summer (meaning the summer of 2011) Jonathan, Nicole, Patrick, and I decided to tackle P90X.  We worked our stinkin' butts off!  But, being the athletic build that I am, I really only lost a few inches. I literally did not lose a darn pound.  Now, mind you, those additional 30 pounds had begun to slowly go away.  So I wasn't still 30 pounds overweight, but it sure felt like I was trying really hard and had nothing to show for it.  So when school started, of course that working out went by the wayside.  I would get about 1-2 workouts in a week on average (which translates to some weeks with NO workouts).  I was maintaining, but not losing...

So Matt Bell and I decided to tackle a quasi-crash diet together.  It was insane!  For 30 days, you have to stay under 500 calories a day.  I know, I know.  Everyone asks me "Is that safe??".  Yes, I was being monitored by a doctor.  I was hungry all the time, but I stripped off 22 pounds in 30 days!  It took some serious will power, but it was the only thing I have ever done that I ACTUALLY saw results with.  The kicker, though, is that you have to stay eating healthy and active while still staying within normal calorie range AFTER the "crash" part of it is over.  Again, this diet really kicked me into high gear because I had gotten in the habit of being RIDICULOUS about watching what I ate.  So again, I maintained that 22 pound weight loss...

Then, the fabulous Marivy Guerra (who is so tiny and fit it's ridiculous) started doing Insanity during our conference period with Brett Farrell and Lynette Garza.  So I jumped on that band wagon.  And got my booty literally handed to me on the first day!  I mean I did my first workout with them on a Friday and when I got up on Saturday I could barely move!  I remember standing in the bathroom crying because I had to pee so bad, but I couldn't bring myself to sit down!!  So we continued that for about 6-8 weeks until the rush of the end of the school year started.  I lost 3-4 pounds and some inches and felt really good.  I could see myself getting stronger and my muscles were slowly but surely coming out of hiding...

Then I came here to the Bahamas with this fabulous workout plan in mind.  I brought my P90X DVD's and everything!  But my teeny little apartment is really not conducive to P90X.  I tried a few workouts in the beginning and found myself REALLY restricted.  I mean how do you do plyometric exercises in a 5X5 living room?  So I thought, "Well I'm eating less and walking more...I'll maintain and maybe lose a little weight in the meantime".  So I've probably lost a pound or two since I've been here.  Then it hit me last weekend that we are coming home in less than 5 weeks and it will be the holiday season!  And Jonathan and I will be running around like crazy people seeing friends and family and prepping for Dominica and EATING (since we are so craving like 20+ US restaurants right now...).  And then I have to move to a tropical island and rock a swimsuit again.  So I decided to start running.  It gives me an excuse to go see the ocean every day...

I decided to start out running one song and walking the next.  So I have been.  And my loop is just under a mile and a half, so I stay running for like 10-12 minutes total.  But here's my thing (hence the title of this post).  I am such a quitter when it comes to fitness.  I get within striking distance of a goal and quit because...well I don't know why.  I always have.  Maybe it's because I'm afraid of failing, maybe it's because I'm just a pansy.  I don't know.  But when I was playing competitive sports, literally every single coach I ever had (with the exception of my Daddy who fielded my famous "talk to the hand" MO with grace and was ALWAYS supportive of me...) simply put...HATED me.  They were so condescending and just plain mean.  They praised my teammates and tore me down.  "Pick up the pace Harris!", "My grandma could run faster than that!", "The whole team is gonna run horses until Harris actually runs it as fast as the rest of the team!", "Harris, get the hell out of my gym!".  Maybe now you can see why I went running to the band hall!!  But now, as an adult, I can see where they were coming from.  I was on the brink of something great.  I was within striking distance of a better time, a quicker pace, something greater than I was allowing myself to achieve.  I see that now for a lot of reasons.  Not the least of which is the fact that I DIDN'T back down when it came to French Horn stuff and I kicked butt and took names.  Where could I have gone if I'd just kept running, just got outside of my head for a minute and "picked up the pace".  What would have changed if, when the famous "get the hell out of my gym!" came, I said "No Coach" and put my head down and ran my butt off instead leaving like she said to...broken and bruised...with my morale shot.  Set the pace, lead the team, didn't take that criticism to heart, and showed my teammates that I have more willpower than that stupid woman had given me credit for...

I was always good at verbal encouragement.  Not so good at pace setting.  What would have been different if I had realized, in those days of being a true athlete, that not only could I be the "cheerleader", I could be the physical motivator too??  So today, I channeled a little Stephanie Glienke, a little Chameka Scott, a little Marivy Guerra, a little Rachel Gafner.  I held them in my head and thought about what they would say if they were running right next to me.  Glienke would say "C'mon Harris, you can do it!  Just keep running!", Chameka would have said "You're better than this...don't're not tired!", Marivy would have said "I'll run with you, just keep going!", Rachel would have said "Rach...c'mon.  Can't never could!".  And I kept putting one foot in front of the other.  I kept moving.  I kept saying to myself "You're going faster than you were sitting on the couch!".  And I didn't stop from the time I walked out my front door to the time I stepped back inside.  1.48 miles later I feel like maybe I could conquer the world!  That might sound like a tiny little feat, but let me tell you that it is HUGE for me.  I honestly don't know if I've EVER done that in my life!  I always defeated myself and said I couldn't do it.  But today, I did.  Today, I didn't defeat myself.  And today I am actually REALLY proud of myself!  For the first time in way too long in regards to fitness.

So thank you Glienke, Chameka, Marivy, and Rachel!  And honestly, thank you to all my "crappy" coaches!  I wish I had really known what you were trying to get out of me.  Maybe if I knew that you saw how close I was to being truly fantastic at what I was doing, I would have reached a little deeper and grabbed that goal.  Or maybe I wouldn't have.  Maybe it just takes a little life experience to make you realize that you're your own worst critic, your own negative energy.  That little voice inside that says "you know you probably can't" is a big fat (emphasis on the BIG and the FAT part) liar!  Because an almost 28 year old woman who is 11 1/2 years removed from "true athlete" status reached her fitness goal today.  And it feels incredible!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

We're Moving! To Another Island...

If you don't already know, Freeport, Bahamas is only our temporary home.  We are only here for 17 weeks (2 weeks prior to class starting and 15 weeks of class).  After this program is over (in 4 1/2 weeks!) we are headed back to the good ol' USA for a mere 6 weeks and then we are moving yet again!  From here we go to Dominica, West Indies.  Here are some pictures of what we have to look forward to...grab a tissue to control your drool:

Spectacular right??  It's called The Nature Island because it's sort of "untouched".  It's a volcanic island with lots of properties of a rainforest paired with some of the world's most beautiful beaches.  We will be living on this somewhat remote island for 4 semesters (consecutively).  So essentially we will be there from the end of December 2012 all the way through May 2014.  We are excited and a little nervous about spending that long in a place so far away (and so different!) from home!  Here is a map of where Dominica is located:

It's there south of St. Kitts (where Ross's vet school is) and north of St. Lucia (where Nicole and Patrick honeymooned).  It's closer to South America than it is to North America!

Roseau is the capitol, but the med school is located in Picard which is in the northern part of the island.  Ross has a Spouses Organization, so I will be doing some island exploring through that organization while Jonathan does his med school thing!

In anticipation of the sure-to-be CIRCUS it will be trying to get things prepped to go to Dominica (if our adventures trying to get here to Freeport are any indication!), I wanted to share with you all the WONDERFUL things that are Dominica.  Prepare yourselves, because there may be some "island bashing" in a few months once I'm there...I'll be ready for some USA!  In the meantime, here's what I'm looking forward to:

1-Maid Service (Every apartment has a's just customary down there)
2-Laundry Service (NOBODY has washers and put your laundry in a bag and your maid takes it to the laundry service...later it's delivered back to your apartment washed, dried, and folded...again, it's just customary down there)
3-New Beaches (though I do so love my Taino Beach here in Freeport, I'm looking forward to something new and different by way of beaches)
4-Waterfalls (being a natural island that is mountainous and rainforest-y, there are lots of them)
5-Island Hopping (Dominica is so close to lots of other little teeny islands...I'm hoping Jonathan and I will get a chance at some point to do a little island hopping when he gets a break...)

There are a few resorts and beautiful hotels on the island, so BOOK YOUR TICKETS NOW!  I'm serious...we would love to have you.  Of course, The Womack Bed and Breakfast (and maybe some lunch and dinner too) is a free stay!  It's a trek down there, but I'm told you won't be disappointed!  Check out this quick little video:

So there ya have it.  The next leg of our journey in Dominica, West Indies is fast approaching!  
Don worry be hoppy mon!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Post Mini #2-The Second Top Ten

Well, we are 2/3 done!  Jonathan rocked the snot out of his second "final" here in Freeport.  Now we have T-Minus 4 1/2 weeks left and we get to come home for 6 weeks!  So in celebration of completing the second of 3 parts of this program, the Womacks and the Wellses rented a car for the weekend!  Woohoo!  I really don't think I've been more excited about having a car in my life.  Probably even including getting my driver's license at 16.  So here is The Top Ten #2 in pictures (in no particular order)!

1-Shopping with Michelle earlier in the week and snagging these AWESOME "manties" for our manly men.  This is what happens when you bring your wife to med school!

2-Probably the most incredible beach on the island!  It's called Gold Rock Beach and it's part of the National Park here.  It's spectacular.  You could walk literally 100 yards out and still only be about knee deep in water!  And of course, as always, the water is impossibly teal and turquoise...

3-We rented a car!  This is the famous Cherry QQ.  It's "semiautomatic" which means it shifts itself OR you can shift it yourself.  Either way it makes for a pretty bumpy ride, but at least it's 4 wheels and an engine!  Without this bad boy, we would have easily spent $150-$200 on a taxi for all the places we went.  As it is, split between us and the Wellses, we only spent $75!!

4-Sunday afternoon grill session at Sunset Lodge with the Grand Pooba himself (aka Vedant...pictured in the middle).  Girls sunbathe, boys grill.  Sounds like a perfect Sunday afternoon to me!

5-Getting my Fire Mountain Beads in (+ some other RAD stuff!).  I've already knocked out 4 pieces and I'm working on more!  Black Friday at ADKOF is gonna be awesome!  (also, go check our BLOG and get your man to buy you some Flair...he will get an gift card out of the deal!)

6-#futuredoctors, #we'rethetwobestfriendsthatanyonecouldhave

7-My favorite building on the island.  Of course it helps that it's pink.  Downtown Freeport is pretty well run down, but there are a few gems left including this Port Authority building.  I just love it.  And having a car meant that my sight seeing trip cost me 1/8 what it usually would!

8-Sand bars, sand bars, sand bars.  These seascapes are straight from a screen saver...

9-The water at Gold Rock Beach is impossibly clear and even close up it's got a bluish tint.  Not to mention my July 18th pedicure is somehow still hanging in there.  

10-Xandu Beach.  Abandoned, quiet, gorgeous, and canal adjacent.  Apparently the snorkeling was sub par according to the guys, but it was still beautiful.  We got some serious sun out there...and a microdermabraision every so often from the wind...

All in all, it was a perfect weekend!  We literally drove this island end to end.  Saw all the most talked about beaches, had some great laughs, AND enjoyed some food at places we hadn't been (by far the best was Pollo Tropical!).  We've decided that in our "last hoorah weekend" here in a few weeks, we are DEFINITELY renting a car again.  If for no other reason than to give us some freedom and to make sure we make it to the airport on time (Tyrone has been a little unreliable lately...).  I will officially start prepping to go home NEXT WEEK!  I can't believe how quickly time flies...

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

How to Voice Your Upset

That Awkward Moment:  
When you're searching your heart and mind for the perfect thing to write about and nothing comes to mind.  Then you open up your daily devotional and it slaps you in the face...

Before I go into my personal thoughts on this matter, I want to share word for word what my "Jesus Calling" devotional said this morning.  If you personally are in the state of mind that I'm in right now, maybe this will give you goosebumps like it did me today:

You have been on a long, uphill journey, and your energy is almost spent.  Though you have faltered at times, you have not let go of My hand.  I am pleased with your desire to stay close to Me.  There is one thing, however, that displeases Me: your tendency to complain.  You may talk to Me as much as you like about the difficulty of the path we are following.  I understand better than anyone else the stresses and strains that have afflicted you.  You can vent safely to Me, because talking with me tempers your thoughts and helps you see things from My perspective.

Complaining to others is another matter altogether.  It opens the door to deadly sins such as self-pity and rage.  Whenever you are tempted to grumble, come to Me and talk it out.  As you open up to Me, I will put My thoughts in your mind and My song in your heart.

"I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint."-Jeremiah 31:25

Have you ever had moments like that where you put down whatever it is that you're reading and say "Okay God, I hear you."?  That was me this morning.  I got a little "scolded" with this devotional, but also reminded that it's okay to feel helpless and zapped of the energy needed to walk your path.  I've struggled lately with this intense need to voice my upset.  And in addition to voicing those things to Him, I also tug on everyone else's ears too.  Like they can do anything about it but "feel sorry for me"!  Which is honestly the last thing I want.  But in venting to other people (sometimes more than I do to God), I do feel that self-pity and rage bubbling up inside of me.  There are circumstances in my life right now that do make me angry and upset.  It is not the "upset" that is the problem, though.  It is the way I go about venting my frustrations about the hand I've been dealt.  

I write all of this and it makes it sound like I've got a really terrible life (see...self-pity and rage).  If I would just vent to Him, though He promises to fill my mind with HIS thoughts.  I SO want and need that.  I need a Christ centered mind.  I need His understanding, His perspective, His compassion, His vision.  With those things, any curve ball life throws me could be fielded with much more grace and humility.  I wouldn't have to worry about needing to "fake it", because my thoughts would be His.  He is ALWAYS compassionate and humble.  His approach to us is NEVER conditional...He is always genuine!  

So if you have found yourself complaining a lot lately, remember that the voicing of your anger or frustrations is not the thing that is wrong.  It is the fact that you don't bring it FIRST to the One who can honestly transform your mind into being like minded with Him.  If you could just see the hurdles from His perspective, you'd see you can scale them with much more ease than you think!

"Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure 'children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation'"--Philippians 2:14-15 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

What It Means to Be a Musician

If you don't know already, I am a musician.  At the core of me, there is a vocalist, an instrumentalist, a performer.  Being a musician is one of those things in my life that was sort of "created for me".  I didn't take expensive voice lessons, I didn't attend a performing arts high school, I didn't get a degree from Juliard.  But when I think about what would be left if you stripped everything from me, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the musician part of me would still be there.  Things in my life in regards to music have always just "worked out".  Almost as if the pathway has been paved for me...

When I was going into 6th grade, we had to choose an elective.  I was always an athlete, yes, but there was never even a question about what my "artistic" elective would be.  It was always band.  Not sure why.  It's not as though my family was full of instrumentalists.  My mom and her sisters played piano and sang in choirs.  My grandmothers were in choirs.  I grew up singing solos and in children's choir in church.  But I never had to think about being in band.  It was the natural answer for me when the time came to choose.  So my mom and I went to the middle school to talk with the band director about picking an instrument.  I had seen a picture of an English Horn in my elementary music classroom.  For your reference, here's what that looks like:

I was so enchanted by it.  It was so quirky and different, and I decided right then and there that I want to play it when I "got bigger".  So I marched right up to that band director and said "I want to play the French Horn."  Not realizing that I mixed up English and French.  Oops!  So he says "Wow!  You're the first one to even know what that is!  Here try this mouthpiece out."  And the rest was history.  I became a French Horn player that day.  Of course when I got to the first day of school and saw this waiting for me:

I was understandably perplexed.  I was expecting something totally different, but, being who I am, I was like "You know what...just go with it."  And go I did.  I was an All-Stater twice (if you're not from Texas or you're not a musician, suffice to say that making All-State ONCE is a big deal...twice is almost unheard of...).  It was and always has been one of those things that when I sit down with my horn, it is an extension of me.  What comes out of that instrument is straight from my soul.  It is my inner voice.  I feel whole when I make music with it.  

I went to the University of Oklahoma on a scholarship to play horn, and had defiantly decided that I "didn't want to be a music major".  But guess what??  That musician in me got so easily lured right back into that world of performance and music making.  It was home for me.  So I went for it and graduated with a Music Education degree.  I couldn't think of anything more worthwhile than instilling that love and passion for music into kids.  So that's what I did.  But the MAKING of music is what inspired and inspires me.  Here's a few pictures of me with my rose brass baby:

Me playing at my senior recital with the lovely and talented Kendall Michaelson.  The piece I'm playing here, Franz Strauss Nocturno Op. 7, is probably one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written in my opinion.  Listen to it here. I would embed a recording of me playing it but sadly, being in Freeport I don't have my recording here!  But that recording comes as close to how I would play it as I could find.  Of course I had to go against the grain a little in my senior recital and replace the piano with the harp!

This is me playing a Concerto by a composer named Frigyes Hidas (who had ironically passed away about a week before my recital).  This piece kicked my friggin' butt while at the same time inspiring the heck outta me.  Listen to it (if you dare) here.  That version in the recording is with a full orchestra and listening to it there makes me SO wish I had my oh so talented brother-in-law Patrick play the percussion part!  That is one of 4 "movements" in the piece which was about 45 minutes long in total!! Yikes!  My face felt like I'd been punched after that performance and I still had one more 3 movement piece to play!

This is me with my woodwind quintet (yes a French Horn is a brass instrument, but we play in woodwind groups too...such a chameleon my instrument is!)  We were called Moment Musiceaux.  Cheesy but fabulous.  The bassoonist and the oboist were also in my senior recital...

The University of Oklahoma Horn Studio circa 2005 (I think).  I'm in the back left rocking my "I'm 20 but I look 14" look. ;)  So many great people in this picture that I have so many great memories of.  So many of those faces I look at and remember such specific stories that make me smile!

I love being a musician because it is being an artist in the rawest and purist sense of the term.  When you're playing an instrument, especially in a solo setting, your mistakes are out there for everyone to hear.  No performance is perfect.  We're always striving for that flawless performance, and as a musician that really never exists in our minds.  But it is such a personal struggle.  There are moments of perfection, yes.  And the high you experience from those moments of perfection is UNMATCHABLE let me tell you!  Being in a band is the same as being in a REALLY creative family.  You're all working for one thing...that near perfect performance.  It brings out the best in all of us and sometimes the worst.  But it's art at it's finest.  The human soul communicating through a medium that's unique ONLY to musicians.  There were times in college that I was lonely, or homesick, or excited, or inspired, and the ONLY thing I wanted to do was shut myself in a practice room with a piano and play and sing.  I would camp out in there for hours!  When my face would get tired of playing horn, I would hit the piano, when that got boring I would sing (sometimes sing and play piano), and then I'd repeat the cycle.  When I think of what my mansion in Heaven will be like, I can't imagine it without MY French Horn (I've played it so much that MY hand print is literally imprinted on the inside of the bell!) and a stage with a piano on it.  I could spend days there and be happy as a clam!

Teaching music has been a passion of mine for a long time too.  This is the first time in a REALLY long time that I haven't been playing, singing, teaching, or leading in the music world.  I think it's literally the first time in my life where I've had to step away from it for a minute.  I really do miss my horn down here in Freeport.  There are days I wish I could just whip it out and play a little.  That would make me so happy!  I miss it, but departing from it for a minute doesn't take away from that core part of me that is wholly a musician.  It is something that was created in me before I drew breath, I think, and I hope that the ways in which I have used that gift have been ways that have honored the One who instilled it in me to begin with.  So in closing, I leave you with this quote:

Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm to life and to everything.  -- Plato

Friday, October 5, 2012

Here's What's Happening Today...

There are some pretty sweet things happening starting today!  First, check these beauties out:

These are our Fight the Fight Breast Cancer Awareness Bracelets that just went up on ADKOF this morning.  As you may well know, fighting breast cancer is something that is near and dear to our hearts in the Womack family.  These pink pearl bracelets have a pink crystal in the center which represents that special woman (or women) in your life who is fighting the fight or has fought the fight.  Go grab one now while they last!  10% of the proceeds will go to Susan B. Komen breast cancer research...

Secondly, my first post as an author at Embrace Your Life is up and running this morning.  So excited about that opportunity!  The other authors on the site are really good too, so go check it out!

Happy Friday Y'all!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Why The World Needs More Clint Dobsons

Monday marked the long awaited trial for the man who murdered a friend of ours, Clint Dobson, in March of 2011.  I won't go in to too much detail here about the case, but essentially this guy (I refuse to use his name) decided he wanted to steal Clint's secretary's car (he was a pastor at North Point Church in Arlington).  The guy came into the church and beat the secretary senseless (so bad her husband didn't recognize her and she has no memory of the event itself or the two weeks following) and left her for dead (she miraculously survived).  He then proceeded to brutally murder one of the most kind spirited men we've ever met.  All of this to take the keys to a Galant and to steal a credit card to buy some gaudy ghetto jewelry and some over priced shoes.  Ridiculous.  I will never understand the mind of a murderer.  Of someone so obsessed with material things that they would take the life of another.  Not to mention, if this guy had known Clint at all he would have known he could have just asked for what he wanted or needed.  Clint would have given him the shirt off his back no questions asked.

But taking a cue from the senior pastor at North Point, I will not use this post to bring glory to his killer.  Rather, I want to celebrate his life and the small part of it that he so graciously shared with me and with Jonathan.  Clint is about 2 1/2 years older than me.  He and I never went to school together and he was in the older high school end of the youth group at UBC (my home church in Houston) when I was in middle school and early high school.  I knew of him, had seen him around, heard his name a lot, but never really "knew" him.    The summer that Jonathan and I got engaged also marked a summer when Jonathan landed a pastoral internship with Robert Creech (our former pastor at UBC).  At the time Clint was serving as an intern as well, but he was working more with Pamm Muzslay (she was preaching at a little "branch out church" UBC had started in a neighborhood apartment complex in Pasadena, Tx).  He was preaching and teaching Bible studies, yes, but the work he was doing with those kids at that apartment complex will be the thing that is forever etched in my mind about Clint.

He and Jonathan were working fairly closely at that point, and Jonathan would come home talking about "what he and Clint did today", or something funny Clint said, or some inside joke they'd conjured up.  They spent a good chunk of time working together that summer.  One afternoon, Jonathan came home and said, "I hope you don't mind, but I sort of volunteered you for something."  Uh-oh...  "Clint needs some help at the apartments because he's turning an empty apartment into like a "youth building" and he is painting it tomorrow.  I told him we would help."  Of course I was willing to help.  So we showed up at this apartment complex the next morning ready to help.  Clint came bounding out of the little kitchen area in the "club house" just smiling and cutting up.  Just being his usual comedic self.  So excited to be starting this project he'd been looking forward to.  "These kids just really need something like this.  They spend all day getting into stuff they shouldn't get into and they just need a place to chill, ya know?  Let's go get started!  Y'all want a capri sun before we go??? (ha!)"  So we followed him to this empty apartment (that was blazing hot in the Houston summer heat) and started painting.

We are laughing and cutting up the whole time.  Kids from the complex are popping in and out and saying things like "Meester Cleent.  What are you doeeng in heeere?  Eeet smells steeenky!".  And Clint would just banter back with them and tell them what we were doing and offer them a paintbrush and let them "help" for the 5 minutes their attention span would allow.  Every once in a while we would hear this little bike bell ring and see this little "ice cream man" pass by trying to sell treats to kids. Here's an example of what an "ice cream man" in Pasadena, Tx looks like:

We were laughing at the humor of this little Mexican guy riding around on a bike following kids around trying to get them to buy ice cream.  He was like on point, man!  Every time a kid would pop into that apartment we were painting, not 5 seconds later we would hear that little bell.  And of course the kid would either bound out of the room to buy something or beg Clint for a buck or two.  He was always willing to oblige...after a quick little joking jab about being "made of money" and what not.  So Clint starts talking in this "little Mexico" accent joking about the ice cream man.  He said, "That guy is like everywhere.  I mean, I wouldn't be surprised if he wheeled that thing up to my front porch in Clear Lake and rang his little bell.  And I would be like, 'Dude, what are you doing here?', and he would be like, 'Cleeent, eets my meeneestree mang!', and I would be like, 'How do you know my name?', and he would be like, 'I know evreetheeng about you Cleent.'"  I still laugh when I replay that conversation in my mind.  The thing is, Clint was quick to joke, quick to laugh, but you always knew he was so sincere in his willingness to help anyone.  But most especially those who were less fortunate.  He had such a heart for people, for children, for the lost and hurting, for the poor.  He just had a heart of gold.  After we had had our fill of painting for the day, Jonathan and Clint organized a quick little game of stick ball in the courtyard.  Kids poured out of the complex to come downstairs and play with Meester Cleent.  He would pick them up and sling them over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes and run them to first base.  He would mercilessly catch the hits of the "hot shots" and "drop" the hits of the weaklings.  He laughed and joked with them and had that whole brood of kids laughing and joking with him.  It was such a heartwarming thing to watch.

I heard a "testimony" tonight from the senior paster at North Point where Clint was pastoring.  He said that not much before the murder, Clint had been talking to him about possibly moving the church into a smaller building (he was more than willing to take a cut in pay) in order to free up more funds to do mission work.  That's the kind of guy Clint was.  And that is honestly and truly the person he is...that's not some quintessential "eulogy" of him.  I would say that about him if he were standing over my shoulder right now reading this post.  His church building was in a "rough part of town", but I guarantee you Clint was not closed up in his ivory tower...I know he was out in the streets making a difference.  Working to bring as many people into that relationship with Christ that he was loving every minute of himself.  He would have given you the shirt off his back, the keys to his car, he probably would have given you the heart out of his chest if you really needed it.  He was such a beautiful picture of selflessness and unconditional love.

The world is a little dimmer now, without the man that was and is Clint Dobson in it.  My heart aches for his wife and family.  For the children he never had, because he would have been such an amazing father.  I hurt for all his church family and for the people and kids whose lives he touched, including mine and Jonathan's.  Clint Dobson's legacy lives on, though.  We should all take a cue from his loving generosity and voracious love of Jesus.  Would that we could all be such a shining example of Christ in the darkest places in this world.  And though the darkest parts of this world were the things that took his life a year and a half ago, I know he opened his eyes in Heaven that day and is rejoicing with his Father and Healer.  He feels no pain, has no regrets, and will most likely be there to greet us all at those pearly gates when we get there.  Of course that welcome might come with a classic Clint Dobson quip and maybe a "Do y'all want a capri sun before we go inside???"

In Loving Memory of Clint Dobson

A Different Kind of Flair